Jesus pronounced a blessing upon the obedient: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” Luke 11.28. On the other side, he warned, “The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day” John 12.48. Disobedience to the gospel brings condemnation, 2 Thessalonians 1.8. Christians are described as “those who obey the words of this book” Revelation 22.9.
So after we find the right information, after we have resolved to be right in terms of what the truth is, we can proceed to the next step: getting right with God. We get right with God only because he makes us right with himself. It’s a divine task, not a human one. At the same time, there is a path we must follow, which God himself has established, in order for that change of status to occur. (This is a short series that starts here.)
The Bible reveals a wealth of descriptions and figures to help us understand that marvelous event of reconciliation. It speaks of justification, sanctification, redemption, salvation, purification. Each speaks of the wealth of meaning of the Cross. What Jesus did on the cross by removing our sins and restoring us to his Father is the central event of history and the great need of all mankind. Sin is man’s problem, and Jesus’ death is our remedy. Boil the gospel down to a word and it’s this: “we preach about a crucified Christ” 1 Corinthians 1.23. Again,
- “For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 1 Corinthians 2.2.
“Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified!” Galatians 3.1.
- “Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit” 1 Peter 3.18.
- “… we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world” 1 John 2.1b-2.
Paul reminded us that the gospel, God’s good news, effects this change. “For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous by faith will live’” Romans 1.17. This is how the gospel saves. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.” The God’s Word translation changes it a bit, but gets at the idea, also: “God’s approval is revealed in this Good News.”
Faith is shorthand for all that man must do to receive forgiveness. It summarizes so well our human response because it starts with faith and continues in faith. (See Rom 1.17, which NLT translates this way: “This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.”) Faith leads to decision and that decision leads to immersion, Acts 2.38. Immersion puts one in Christ and in Christ’s body, for service, love, growth, and glory, Romans 6.3; Galatians 3.27; 1 Corinthians 12.13; Ephesian 3.20-21.
Some today disparage talking about God’s part and man’s part. (It’s a play to exclude obedience from the plan of salvation.) But the Bible does it. They are not equal parts, but each does have his part. In the first big covenant that God makes with man, when he calls Abraham, the Lord starts by explaining what he will do: “As for me, …” Genesis 17.4. A few versions even translate that, “For my part.” When he gets to what he expects from Abraham, he says, “As for you [your part of the agreement], …” Genesis 17.9 AMP. The new covenant of Christ also shows what God’s part is and what man must do.
Sin is our problem, and Jesus removes it. God makes us right, declares us right, and moves us back into his glorious presence. He undoes the sad result of Romans 3.23. He makes us right and restores our relationship, or reconciles us. So let’s get right with God.